CONCERN about the threat of sea level rises drove Lake Macquarie Council behind closed doors last Monday night, as councillors tried to get their heads around flood planning.
Councillors eventually sided with what Liberal councillor Rob Denton called "commonsense", voting to defer a decision on two developments despite a staff recommendation to refuse them because of flood concerns.
Councillors first voted to go behind closed doors to discuss legal advice on the issue, a move that sparked grumblings from the public gallery.
Council staff, in line with a cautious approach to the threat of sea level rise, had recommended councillors reject a two-lot subdivision at Carey Bay because it "could create a public safety issue" for future residents.
The Excelsior Parade land, which adjoins Punter Creek and Lake Macquarie, had natural ground levels of 1-1.5 metres above sea level.
"The current provisional flood hazard on the site is low, but this will increase to high by 2050," the report stated.
It made the same recommendation for a dual occupancy at Swansea, citing state planning guidelines "to avoid intensification of development in high-risk sea level rise areas".
But councillors rejected the advice, all but one voting to defer both matters so conditions of consent could be put together by staff.
Labor councillor Daniel Wallace moved the deferral on both, asking how a decision "of no physical work" could "create a public safety issue". It marked a shift in the attitude of some in the chamber towards the council's hard-line stance on sea rise concerns. Cr Denton noted that "commonsense" was now "in the majority".
But independent Laurie Coghlan slammed the decision. He said the "flood gates" would open on development applications in flood-prone areas.